Child Support Enforcement Privatization:

Challenges in Ensuring Accountability for Program Results

T-HEHS-98-22: Published: Nov 4, 1997. Publicly Released: Nov 4, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the privatization of child support enforcement, focusing on: (1) whether privatization has increased; (2) whether privatization has increased efficiency and effectiveness; (3) the main challenges stemming from privatization; and (4) the federal government's role in this critical area.

GAO noted that: (1) most of the state and local governments GAO contacted have increased their contracting for social services, as indicated by the number and types of services privatized and the percentage of their program budgets paid to private contractors since 1990; (2) the few empirical studies that examine whether privatization has reduced program costs or improved services show mixed results to date; (3) the challenges that state and local governments encounter include developing clear contract specifications and implementing effective methods of monitoring contractor performance; (4) governments at all levels are struggling with the best way to hold service providers accountable for results; and (5) in this changing environment, GAO believes that the Department of Health and Human Services can be more helpful by increasing its focus on developing and implementing methods of assessing program results.

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